Philosophers, cognitive scientists and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind believe that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. They argue that all aspects of cognition, such as ideas, thoughts, concepts and categories are shaped by aspects of the body. These aspects include the perceptual system, the intuitions that underlie the ability to move, activities and interactions with our environment and the native understanding of the world that is built into the body and the brain.
The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition such as cognitivism, computationalism and Cartesian dualism. The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.
George Lakoff (a cognitive scientist and linguist) and his collaborators (including Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, and Rafael E. Núñez) have written a series of books promoting and expanding the thesis based on discoveries in cognitive science, such as conceptual metaphor and image schema.
Robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Rolf Pfeifer have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body. The insights of these robotics researchers have in turn inspired philosophers like Andy Clark and Horst Hendriks-Jansen. The motor theory of speech perception proposed by Alvin Liberman and colleagues at the Haskins Laboratories argues that the identification of words is embodied in perception of the bodily movements by which spoken words are made.
Neuroscientists Gerald Edelman, António Damásio and others have outlined the connection between the body, individual structures in the brain and aspects of the mind such as consciousness, emotion, self-awareness and will.
Biology has also inspired Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch and Evan Thompson to develop a closely related version of the idea, which they call enactivism, and more closely tied to Universal Darwinism are evolutionary epistemologists such as Karl Popper and Donald T. Campbell, while Patricia Carpenter is pursuing a biologically-grounded account of cognition called the "fractal catalytic model".
In his pre-critical period, philosopher Immanuel Kant advocated a remarkably similar embodied view of the mind-body problem that was part of his Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven (1755). José Ortega y Gasset, George Santayana, Miguel de Unamuno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger and others in the broadly existential tradition have proposed philosophies of mind influencing the development of the modern 'embodiment' thesis.
Cognitive science and linguistics
Lakoff and Johnson ([[#
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According to Lakoff and Johnson, an embodied philosophy would show the laws of thought to be metaphorical, not logical; truth would be a metaphorical construction, not an attribute of objective reality. That is, it would not rely on any foundation ontology as might be sought in the physical sciences or religion, but would likely proceed from metaphors drawn from our experience of having a body.
Research by Tom M. Mitchell and others has shown that embodied features are an intrinsic aspect of semantics. These sensory-motor features include see, hear, listen, taste, smell, eat, touch, rub, lift, manipulate, run, push, fill, move, ride, say, fear, open, approach, near, enter, drive, wear, break, and clean. English nouns are found by computational linguistic analysis of over 1 trillion words of text exhibiting typical word use, to have exactly these 25 different semantic features. Each feature is associated with its own pattern of fMRI activity. The individual contribution of each parameter, when adjusted by the strength of its contribution to a particular noun, predicts the fMRI pattern when that noun is considered. Nouns therefore derive their meaning from prior experience linked probabilistically to a common symbol.
One source of inspiration for embodiment theory has been research in cognitive neuroscience, such as the proposals of Gerald Edelman concerning how mathematical and computational models such as neuronal group selection and neural degeneracy result in emergent categorization. Drawing on experimental psychology and linguistics as well as Edelman and other cognitive neuroscientists, Rohrer (2005) discusses how both our neural and developmental embodiment shape both our mental and linguistic categorizations. The degree of thought abstraction has been found to be associated with physical distance which then affects associated ideas and perception of risk.
Theorists whose theories of embodiment of cognition are more closely tied to Universal Darwinism are evolutionary epistemologists such as Karl Popper and Donald T. Campbell. In their view it is the action and the form of the body which are the sources of the knowledge for any organism as long as it reflects the environment good enough for the organism to be able to survive in it and be competitive enough to reproduce at sustainable rate in it. Blind variation and selective retention is the universal two-step mechanism which over the course of time enables knowledge to be formed filogenetically and ontogenetically, and simultaneously on different levels, both the hard-wired knowledge and the 'softer' ones.
Artificial intelligence and robotics
In 1950, Alan Turing proposed that a machine may need a human-like body to think and speak:
It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. That process could follow the normal teaching of achild. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. (Turing, 1950).
Embodiment theory was brought into Artificial Intelligence most notably by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. Brooks showed that robots could be more effective if they 'thought' (planned or processed) and perceived as little as possible. The robot's intelligence is geared towards only handling the minimal amount of information necessary to make its behavior be appropriate and/or as desired by its creator. Brooks (and others) have claimed that all autonomous agents need to be both embodied and situated. They claim that this is the only way to achieve strong AI.
The embodiment movement in AI has in turn fueled the embodiment argument in Philosophy, see in particular Andy Clark (1997, 1998, 2008)  and Hendriks-Jansen (1996). It has also given emotions a new status in philosophy of mind as an indispensable constituent, not a non-essential addition to rational intellectual thought. In Philosophy of Mind, the idea that cognition is embodied is sympathetic with other views of cognition such as situated cognition or externalism which is an even more radical move towards a total re-localization of mental processes out of the neural domain. It is important to stress that these views are forms of physicalism insofar as they maintain that the mind is identical with physical processes, though such processes are external to the boundaries of the nervous system.
The following “Six Views of Embodied Cognition” are due to Margaret Wilson:
- Cognition is situated. Cognitive activity takes place in the context of a real-world environment, and inherently involves perception and action. One example of this is moving around a room while, at the same time, trying to decide where the furniture should go. Another example is day-dreaming. You are in a situation, but you’re not in the situation or 'present'. At the time you may be doing something, but your mind or your thoughts are in a much different place.
- Cognition is time-pressured. Cognition must be understood in terms of how it functions under the pressure of real-time interaction with the environment. When you’re under pressure to make a decision, the choice that is made emerges from the confluence of pressures that you’re under and in their absence, a decision may be made completely different. Since there was pressure, the result was the decision you made.
- We off-load cognitive work onto the environment. Because of limits on our information-processing abilities, we exploit the environment to reduce the cognitive workload. We make the environment hold or even manipulate information for us, and we harvest that information only on a need-to-know basis. This is seen when people have calendars, agendas, PDA’s, or anything to help them with everyday functions. We write things down so we can use it when we need it, instead of taking the time to memorize or encode it into our minds.
- The environment is part of the cognitive system. The information flow between mind and world is so dense and continuous that, for scientists studying the nature of cognitive activity, the mind alone is not a meaningful unit of analysis. This statement means that the production of cognitive activity does not come from mind alone, but rather is a mixture of the mind and the environmental situation that we are in. These interactions become part of our cognitive systems. Our thinking, decision making, and future are all impacted by our environmental situations.
- Cognition is for action. The function of the mind is to guide action and things such as perception and memory must be understood in terms of their contribution to situation-appropriate behavior. This claim has to do with the visual and memory perception that our minds have. Our vision is encoded into our minds as a “what” and “where” concept. Meaning the structure and placement of an object. This idea goes back to what we are used to and what we have been exposed to. Our perception of what we see comes from our experience and exposure of it. Memory in this case doesn’t necessarily mean memorizing something. Rather remembering in a relevant point of view instead of as it really is. We remember how relevant it is to us, and decide if it’s worth remembering.
- Off-line cognition is body-based. Even when decoupled from the environment, the activity of the mind is grounded in mechanisms that evolved for interaction with the environment- that is, mechanisms of sensory processing and motor control. This is shown with infants or toddlers best. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with, such as sucking, grasping, and listening, to learn more about the environment. The skills are broken down into five main categories that combine sensory with motor skills, sensorimotor functions. The five main skills are:
- Mental Imagery- Is visualizing something based on your perception of it, when it is not there or is not present. An example of this would be having a race. You are all excited and full of adrenaline and you take a moment and you can actually see yourself winning the race.
- Working Memory- Short term memory
- Episodic Memory- Long term memory
- Implicit Memory- means by which we learn certain skills until they become automatic for us. An example of this would be an adult brushing his/her teeth, or an expert race car driver putting the car in drive.
- Reasoning and Problem-Solving- Having a mental model of something will increase problem-solving approaches.
Criticism of the Six Claims
Some authors go so far as to complain that the phrase “situated cognition” implies falsely that there also exists cognition that is not situated (Greeno & Moore, 1993, p. 50). Of these, the first three and the fifth claim appear to be at least partially true, and their usefulness is best evaluated in terms of the range of their applicability. The sixth claim has received the least attention, but may be the most powerful of the six claims (Wilson M., 2002).
- Cognitive linguistics
- Cognitive neuropsychology
- Cognitive neuroscience
- Cognitive science
- Conceptual blending
- Conceptual metaphor
- Embodied cognitive science
- Embodied Embedded Cognition
- Embodied music cognition
- Image schema
- Moravec's paradox
- Philosophy of mind
- Situated cognition
- Where Mathematics Comes From
- Varela, Thompson & Rosch 1992
- Gallagher 2005
- Brooks, Rodney A. (1999). Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History of the New AI. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262522632
- Clark, Andy (1997). Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262531569
- Damasio, Antonio (1999). The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0156010755
- Edelman, G (2004). Wider than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10229-1
- Gallagher, S. (2005). How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199204160.
- Hendriks-Jansen, Horst (1996) Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated Activity, Interactive Emergence, Evolution, and Human Thought. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262082462
- Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark (1980) Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226468011
- Lakoff, George (1987) Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46804-6.
- Lakoff, George and Turner, Mark (1989) More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226468127
- Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark (1999) Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books. ISBN 0465056741
- Lakoff, George and Nuñez, Rafael. (2001). Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465037712
- Maturana, Humberto and Varela, Francisco (1987) The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-373-2
- Pfeifer, R. (2001) Understanding Intelligence. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262161818
- Varela, Francisco J., Thompson, Evan T., and Rosch, Eleanor. (1992). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262720213
- Greeno, J.G & Moore, J.L. (1993). Situativity and symbols: Response to Vera and Simon. Cognitive Science, 17, 49-59.
- Wilson, M. (2001). The case for sensorimotor coding in working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, *, 44-57.
- The Situated Body, a special issue of Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts. Guest edited by Shaun Gallagher.
- Six Views of Embodied Cognition
- Embodiment and Experientialism from the Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (pdf)
- Embodied Cognition: A Field Guide (pdf) - from an Artificial Intelligence perspective
- Where the Action Is by Paul Dourish- for applications to human-computer interaction.
- Pragmatism, Ideology, and Embodiment: William James and the Philosophical Foundations of Embodiment by Tim Rohrer
- Visual Causality- an article on the embodied nature of causal perception
- Society for the Scientific Study of Embodiment
- Embodied Cognition - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- 2001 Summary of how the embodiment hypothesis of cognitive linguistics has begun to interact with theories of embodiment in fields ranging from cognitive anthropology to cognitive neuroscience
- Goddard College's Embodiment Studies Web Resources
- Goddard College's Individualized MA program where students may focus in Embodiment Studies
- Society for the Scientific Study of Embodiment
- Embodiment Resources - for those researching into embodiment, particularly as it relates to phenomenology, sociology and cognitive neuroscience.
- The Embodiment Wiki